The Supreme Court Says Mandatory Sentencing Of Juveniles To Life Without Parole Would Be Cruel

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Photo: Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office

We might not have gotten a health care decision today, but the Supreme Court did decide it’s unconstitutional to require judges to sentence juvenile offenders to life in prison without parole.In the majority opinion, written by Justice Elena Kagan, the court upheld that the Eighth Amendment forbids laws that require sentencing a juvenile to life without the possibility parole, citing the amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

The court ruled that juveniles are more likely to be rehabilitated since their characters aren’t as fully formed as adults’.

In general, courts have agreed minors are less responsible for their actions than adults.

The Supreme Court has previously ruled out the death penalty for juveniles, as well life sentences without parole for minors whose crimes did not involve killing.

The case was decided in a 5 to 4 vote, with Justice Samuel Alito leading the dissent.

The decision came in response to two cases, one from Arkansas and one from Alabama.

In the Arkansas case, 14-year-old Jackson allegedly went with two other boys to rob a video store. One of the boys shot and killed the store clerk after Jackson entered the store, according to Monday’s opinion.

Prosecutors charged Jackson as an adult on counts of capital felony murder and aggravated robbery. A trial court convicted him and imposed a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.

In the second case, 14-year-old Miller and a friend beat allegedly Miller’s neighbour and set fire to his trailer, according to the Supreme Court opinion.

Even though Miller was initially charged as a juvenile, his case was eventually moved to adult court, where he was charged with murder in the course of arson.

A jury found him guilty and sentenced him to life without the possibility of parole.

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